Evidence found in Borjomi forest, creates suspicion over the origins of fire outbreak
It proves to be the hottest summer for Georgia
By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Thursday, August 24
It’s been four days that Georgian firefighters and volunteers have been struggling to extinguish wildfire in Borjomi forest together with the support of neighboring countries. Since August war 2008 when Russian militaries provoked fire in Borjomi forest, it is the second case of such a tragic fire outbreak, however, unfortunately Georgia still remains underequipped to face the disaster alone.
A massive wildfire has begun on August 19 and encircled 15 hectares. At the beginning Georgian firefighters managed to localize the fire, however, strong wind spread the fire further to the extent that became difficult for local firefighters to deal with. The population immediately expressed their willingness to support, but volunteers were warned not to act on their own due to serious threats to their lives. Most of them were allowed to provide only minor support to firefighters and law enforcers.
The first country, which offered her support, was Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Turkey joined afterwards employing their helicopters to help extinguish the fire. Until now, Germany, Israel, Romania and Greece also expressed their readiness to assist.
There are serious doubts whether the fire was caused by high temperature. Officials from law-enforcement agencies have reported the case is being investigated.
This year, and particularly, summer proved to be the hottest for Georgia as the country has faced a serious cascade of fire outbreaks in its different parts. Some suspect a well-planned provocation.
Here is the list of fire outbreaks that took place on the territory of Georgia in 2017:
• 30 January -Fire at Bavshvta Sakhli (Kids’ House), one of the famous Shopping Centers, in Tbilisi;
• 2 July- Fire at Eliavas Bazroba (Eliava Market) in Tbilisi;
• 5 July- Fire at Lilo, largest Market in the outskirts of Tbilisi;
• 10 July- Fire at marketplace in Poti;
• 17 July- Fire at the so-called Dezertiri Market in Tbilisi;
• 7 August- Fire in Didi Digomi, a residence district in Tbilisi;
• 8 August- Fire on Mtatsminda, one of the popular recreational centers, in Tbilisi;
• 10 August- Fire in village Shavshvebi;
• 13 August- Forest fire in Mestia, main town of Svaneti Region;
• 19 August- Fire at Isani Marketplace in Tbilisi;
• 19 August- Forest fire in Borjomi gorge;
• 21 August- Fire in Didi Digomi ,Tbilisi;
• 22 August- Forest fire in Ateni gorge;
• 23 August- Fire in Varketili, a residence district, in Tbilisi;
Intensified cases of sudden fire outbreaks lead to reasonable suspicions among the Georgian society. The doubts were strengthened by the fact that the media reported volunteers found gasoline tanks in Borjomi on August 23. This caused fair speculations whether the case was accidental. Later, officials from law-enforcement agencies declared they were looking into all possible causes of fire.
It is ironic that an attempt to burn Borjomi forest already took place in 2008, as at that time, the forest proved to be a safe shelter for Georgian army during the August Georgia-Russia war. The Georgian firefighters managed to extinguish fire then, however, this time the case seems to be more aggravated.
Although, Russia is in the list of the countries that expressed its willingness to support extinguish fire in Borjomi this week, Georgian Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, politely turned down the proposal from the Northern neighbor.
It is also noteworthy that the fire in Borjomi has extended to the territory, which has been rehabilitated after 2008, when hundreds of hectares were burned by Russian military.
It is sad that even after nine years, being well aware of possible emergencies, Georgia is still not ready to battle such a large-scale fire on its own.
U.S. Ambassador released a statement announcing his appeal to the government of the United States for assistance.
"We, as Georgia’s partner, would like to support your efforts and so I’ve requested from the U.S. Government additional assistance. We’ve been in touch with both U.S. military, the European Command in Germany, and with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and I think the key will be to see where we can provide additional assistance," stated Ambassador Ian Kelly.
Wildfire in Borjomi Forest is still not extinguished and the cost of damage has not been estimated yet. It is tragic that despite mobilization of firefighters, law-enforcers and the population, Georgia failed to face the disaster of such a scale due to being inappropriately equipped. And, it is definitely an issue that should be considered by relevant agencies in the long-term perspective. However, as fire outbreaks intensify, the biggest question is its cause. Without doubt, there is an urgent need for thorough investigation, which shall be the only way to find a solution to fire outbreaks in the country in future.